How To Experience Peace

We have recently discussed the fallacies of psychology and have shown how depression and other emotional problems are not diseases. So, if depression is not a physical ailment, what is it and more importantly is there a way to overcome it?

The Bible speaks much about the peace of God. In fact, He is specifically called the “God of peace” 5 times in the New Testament. The word peace, or a derivative thereof, can be found 269 times in the NIV. With the exception of James and 1 John every other epistle in the New Testament, either begins or ends (and sometimes both) with a greeting of peace from God. For example:

Philem 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

2 John 3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love.

Peace was not just something these writers “wished” or “hoped” their brothers in Christ would have. This was something they knew God had promised to those that love Him. We are not simply asked to “try” to have peace. No, we are taught that peace is a fruit of the Spirit and as such, should be something that is evident in the life of those who walk in the Spirit. As a tree produces fruit, the Spirit produces fruit in our lives. One part of that fruit is peace.

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Note that not only is peace a fruit of the Spirit, so is joy. As we have mentioned in another article, the fruit of the Spirit is in conflict with what the world calls clinical depression. Some try to excuse this away and claim to have the joy of the Lord while at the same time say they are ‘clinically’ depressed. This is simply not possible. We either live by the Spirit or the flesh; we cannot choose both.

Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law…25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

There is no question as to whether or not it is possible for a believer to experience peace, the Bible is clear that peace comes from God and is offered to all who truly trust Him. Paul calls this the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). God not only gives peace, He gives us a peace that is so great the human mind cannot comprehend it! So how do we find this peace?

Of course the first step is a person must be saved. This step is vital and must not be overlooked, even by those who believe they are already saved. Everyone who has been suffering from depression should first and foremost examine they’re faith. Faith comes by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, the one taught about in Scripture. You must ask, do I believe in the Jesus the Bible talks about or do I believe in a Jesus taught by man? These could be two different people. Just because you believe in someone “named” Jesus does not mean you truly know the Jesus written about in God’s Word. If you do not know the Bible very well or have never read the Bible for yourself, you may want to examine just who or what you are trusting in. The Jesus of the Bible offers real peace, and we must believe Him and take Him at His Word. This brings us to the next step. We must read and study God’s Word.

If we have been ‘saved’ by the Lord Jesus Christ, then we should desire to learn more about Him. To do that, we must turn to God’s Word. While we talk to God in prayer, He talks to us through His Word. The Bible tells us that through the knowledge of Christ we have everything we need for life and godliness! Everything!

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Scriptures can thoroughly equip us. We need nothing else, but it cannot equip us if we do not read it. If we do not spend time learning about God, listening to the instructions He has given us for life, we are not going to experience the peace that He has promised. We must read and study His Word regularly.

Finally, we must put into practice what the Scriptures say. While this sounds simple, it seems to be a major struggle among many Christians. They believe in the Lord, they read God’s Word, but they never actually do what it says. The Bible speaks about this very thing.

Phil 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

The Bible actually tells us how to have peace, but we have to do what it says to experience it. I think the reason why many readers miss this instruction is because they do not realize the impact our thinking has on our emotions and behavior. The Bible actually speaks quite often about what our minds should be focused on and it does tell us what kinds of things we should be ‘thinking’ about. This often gets overlooked; especially by those who have already bought into the lie that depression, anxiety and other behavioral issues are diseases. If you read the Bible assuming that it cannot help you in those areas, you will miss the vital passages that are there to do just that thing.

Our thinking does affect our moods, attitude, and behavior. Our emotions are strongly tied to our minds - to what we think. Our emotions cannot determine on their own what is or is not factual; they simply react blindly to the thoughts in our heads. This is why we react so strongly to movies. A good movie can make us frightened, sad, happy, angry, etc. As our minds are focused on the script and the scenes rolling before our eyes, our emotions truly feel these things. Our emotions do not care that we have not just fallen in love or off a cliff, they react as if we have.

Just as our emotions can be stirred up by a movie, they also react as strongly to any thought process that goes through our heads. The old adage, ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is actually a profound and Scripturally sound statement. If your mind is full of garbage, your emotions and mental state will suffer. The Bible tells us specifically to think on certain things. We are told to keep our minds on Christ. If we do not follow these instructions we will not experience true peace. While harboring one bad thought does not generally cause depression, years of poor thinking habits can lead one to a depressed state. In the same way, consistently following the Biblical mandate to renew our minds in Christ will lead us to the peace that He has promised.

The Bible says we will be able to know God’s will when we are transformed by the renewing of our mind.

Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Our mind is not our brain, it is not merely tissue in which chemicals react and interact to cause us to experience certain behavior. God, we know is Spirit (not flesh and blood) and He has a mind.

1 Cor 2:16-3:1 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

As Christians we are now instructed to renew our minds and have the mind of Christ. Medication will not help you to renew your mind; this has to be done by Jesus. Remember earlier when we said that the Bible had all that we needed to equip us? It does, and it specifically tells us that the Word will judge our thoughts and attitudes. Those are areas that can be controlled and they are addressed in the Scripture.

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Word of God judges our thoughts and attitudes because they are something that we can control. It is not only possible to do so; we are instructed to do so. Notice the link here between the thoughts and attitudes. He talks as if they are both something that need to be addressed. This goes along with what we were saying earlier, our thoughts affect our attitudes.

The Bible then tells us how to adjust them. We are told to fix our thoughts on Christ. The Word of God that judges our hearts is also that which can adjust our thinking and attitudes. If we spend time in God’s Word, we are not only finding the instructions to help us overcome, we are actually following those instructions by doing so.

Col 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Heb 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

We are told to think about Christ and things pertaining to Him. We are not to be focused on the things of this world. As we read and study God’s Word our mind is focused on Him and the things above.

Is this really enough to overcome? Will just thinking about Jesus really give us peace? The answer is yes, if you actually do this. As we mentioned, we must put into practice what we have learned. In order to do that we must read and study God’s Word regularly. The only way to think on the things of the Lord is to be in His Word. There is no replacement for that. In order to think on the things of Christ we must know about them. The Word of God is the only place we can learn from.

This is also something that will never end. In order to keep our minds on Christ we must continually study and be in God’s Word. Putting this into practice cannot be accomplished through quick and easy rituals. While prayer is an important part of our fellowship with the Lord, talking to Him in prayer instead of listening to Him by reading His Word will not give you peace. Prayer alone will not help you. While listening to and learning from other godly men and women can be helpful and important, reading about the Bible cannot replace reading the Bible for ones self. Attending church can be beneficial but it alone will not offer peace. Memorizing the Word is a good thing, but randomly quoting Scriptures without studying the context is not enough. One-minute or even 10 minute daily devotionals cannot replace reading God’s Word in context, by yourself, regularly. While it often sounds too simple, it is not that easy. It requires dedication and commitment.

The world has embedded itself within the church and has caused much confusion in this area. We buy “what would Jesus do” bracelets, wear Christian t-shirts, put “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers on our car and somehow think this puts our mind on Christ. Thinking about what we think Jesus would do is not following the Biblical mandate to think on Christ. Slogans involving words about Jesus will not bring us peace. Forwarding emails that are supposedly about God, but in reality are merely written by men (who know little or nothing about Him) is not thinking on things above.

While none of these things in and of themselves are necessarily bad (though strong objections might be made for some) nothing, I repeat, nothing can replace being in God’s Holy Word. Philippians has to be my favorite book in the Bible because it showed me how to experience the peace of God. This book helped transform my mind by showing me the things to think on. When I read these characteristics I know there is nothing worldly that fits this description. The things to think about have to be Godly, and His Word reveals these things to us. We read in this book how Paul instructs us to have that unfathomable peace.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What are your thoughts focused on most of the day? Really examine your thought life over the next few weeks. How much time is spent in Bible study and how much is spent in front of the television or computer? I find that even watching the news for extended periods of time can cause me to have bad thoughts and feelings. When you hear of all the wrong going on in the world all day long, it gets to you after awhile. What about other things, how much of the day do you spend worrying over problems, other people, or yourself? These thoughts can cause us to feel angry, bitter, jealous, fear, envy, etc. Every time you have a thought that causes a sinful attitude ask yourself, does that thought live up the criteria in this passage? When you notice that you are thinking on things that are not excellent and praiseworthy, change what you are thinking about. Stop and spend time in God’s Word. Put your thoughts on the things that Paul teaches; fix your thoughts on Jesus. I hope to address this more thoroughly in a future article, for I want people to realize how to truly apply these passages to their lives. It works, it truly does.

Rom 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.

Consider these passages and prayerfully read, study and meditate on God’s Word. It is our prayer that you spend more time in God’s Word than you do even at our website. Do not let anything replace His Word in your life, for it and it alone has all you need for life.

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Forgiveness & 1 John 1:9

One of the greatest aspects of being a believer in Christ is that we have been given the privilege to rest in the complete forgiveness of God. Part of resting in His forgiveness means that we can be guilt free of the sins we have committed and will commit in the future. Most Christians have heard the familiar phrase that Jesus paid for our sins past – present – and future. But many have a hard time resting in this promise. Part of our problem is that our relationships are conditional. Only Jesus can give us the unconditional love and forgiveness that we so desire. Outside of a relationship with Him this simply cannot be found. God offers us an unconditional relationship. Sometimes people have a difficult time accepting that and feel it is important to earn God’s forgiveness through some sort of penance. The Bible teaches that nothing we attempt to do or refrain from doing could possibly earn a relationship with the almighty God. That can only be found in trusting in the finished work of Christ as our substitutionary savior. There are many religions that teach different philosophies and ways to gain or merit God’s grace. Yet the Bible is clear, faith alone pleases God:

Hebrews 11:6 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. NIV

Some ideas that people believe and practice in order to relieve their guilt of sin are extreme. Some, especially those who have never come to the saving faith in Christ, resort to prescription drugs because they feel that they have a disorder causing them distress, guilt, anxiety, and even severe depression. Some try to relieve their guilt with similar methods; including alcohol. But in the religious world, people resort to spiritual methods. Recently I saw a small documentary where people were cutting themselves, crawling up mountains on their hands and knees, carrying a crucifix in their hand all day, and even sacrificing water when they become thirsty – all in an attempt to please God and gain His grace and forgiveness. Some religions teach that it is important to do special things at certain times of the year. An example of this is the necessity to give up something during lent (something not mentioned anywhere in Scripture). They feel it is important or necessary to mimic Christ’s sacrificial death, thus bringing them closer to Him. Religion and religious rituals will never merit God’s love, forgiveness or grace. The Bible repeatedly makes this overwhelmingly clear. Actually the very meaning of grace is unmerited favor.

After I became a believer, the Church I attended offered some extra discipleship courses, of which I am grateful and indebted to for I learned a tremendous amount in those classes. As I continued to grow and study the Word of God, there were a few things that I found were not completely accurate in those teachings. One of the things that we were continually taught to memorize and practice was the passage found in First John chapter one. We were taught that we were forgiven for all our past sins, but that we must verbally confess our sins in prayer for God to forgive us for new sin. Each time we sin, we must perform this formula and confess our sins according to 1 John 1:9 - and then ask for forgiveness. Sometimes we would just pray for all of our sins that we did not know about or could not remember to make sure we covered them all. Coupled with this, the Church taught us that we needed to pray correctly, so they taught us the popular prayer method known by its acronym ACTS. This means to pray in this order: A - Adoration, C – Confession, T, Thanksgiving, S, Supplication. Even today, I hear this taught as a guideline to prayer. Some people truly believe God will not hear our prayers unless we first confess our sins to him. They feel that any fellowship with God is cut off until we first verbally confess our sin. At that point fellowship is restored until our next sin, which must be followed by another confession. As a growing Christian, it did not take me long to realize the vicious cycle here, and oh how difficult it was to keep track of all my sins so that I could confess them! I had many questions about this concept, but I did read 1 John 1:9 and believed what it said. So then began to search for answers. Here are commentaries on this passage by some very conservative teachers, of whom I highly respect. They share the same idea on this subject.

"Confess means 'to say the same thing about sin that God does.' Forgiveness and fellowship within the family of God is restored when we confess." Charles C Ryrie – Ryrie Study Bible

"The false teachers not only denied that sin breaks our fellowship with God (1:6) and they had a sinful nature (1:8), but they also denied that their conduct involved any sin at all (1:10) that was a lie that ignored one basic truth; all people are sinners by nature and by practice. At conversion all our sins are forgiven – past, present and future. Yet even after we become Christians we still sin and still need to confess. This kind of confession is not offered to gain Gods acceptance, but to remove the barrier to fellowship that our sin has between us and him. It is difficult, however, for many people to admit their faults and shortcomings even to God. It takes humility and honesty to recognize our weakness, and most of us would rather pretend that we are strong. But we need not fear revealing our sins to God – he knows them already. He will not push us away, no matter what we’ve done. In stead he will draw us to himself. " Life Application Study Bible

"To 'confess' one’s sins does not mean merely to confess one’s sins in general, but rather to identify specifically, and then to agree with God as to their specific sinful character, thus, in reality, repenting (that is changing one’s mind) about them and viewing them as God does. Since Christ’s blood has already been shed to cover them, He is faithful to His word, and provides forgiveness in perfect justice." Henry M. Morris – KJV Defenders Study Bible

"What it is to 'walk in the light' is explained by vs 8-10 'All things … are made manifest by the light'(Eph 5:13). The presence of God brings the consciousness of sin in the nature (v. 8), and sins in the life (vs. 9, 10). The blood of Christ is the divine provision for both. To walk in the light is to live in fellowship with the Father and the Son. Sin interrupts, but confession restores that fellowship. Immediate confession keeps the fellowship unbroken." C.I. Scofield – Scofield Study Bible First Edition

"…To walk in darkness (v.6 cf. John 3:19) would be to continue in sin. On the other hand, to walk in light is to have continuous fellowship with God (v. 7, cf. John 8”12)… …On the other hand, if a person will acknowledge his sinfulness, confessing his sin before God (i.e.., saying the same thing as God says about sin), then he can receive forgiveness and be brought back to a proper relationship to God. The final plea that man makes is an actual denial that sin is even present in his life. Man essentially says that he is not in any way practicing sin. Even though by His death Christ satisfied God’ wrath on the believer’s sin (1 John 2:1, 2), the sin nature still remains within man. Therefore, he must realize there must be a desire to continue in a right relationship with God by confession of sin." Spiros Zodhiates – Key Word Study Bible

" 1:9. In view of verse 8, Christians ought to be ready at all times to acknowledge any failure which God's light may expose to them. Thus John wrote, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Though the Nib’s translation 'our sins' (after the words 'forgive us') is quite admissible, 'our' is not in the Greek text. The phrase (tas hamartias) contains only an article and noun and it is conceivable that the article is the type which grammarians call 'the article of previous reference.' If so, there is a subtle contrast between this expression and the 'all unrighteousness' which follows it. John's thought might be paraphrased: 'If we confess our sins, He...will forgive the sins we confess and moreover will even cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' Naturally only God knows at any moment the full extent of a person's unrighteousness. Each Christian, however, is responsible to acknowledge (the meaning of 'confess,' homologomen; cf. 2:23; 4:3) whatever the light makes him aware of, and when he does so, a complete and perfect cleansing is granted him. There is thus no need to agonize over sins of which one is unaware." Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament

"1 John 1:9 [If we confess our sins] Pardon in the Scriptures, always supposes that there is confession, and there is no promise that it will be imparted unless a full acknowledgment has been made. Compare Ps. 51; 32:; Luke 15:18 ff; 7:41 ff; Prov 28:13. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament

"[To clear up a false teaching that one must clean up ones life before coming to Christ, the author teaches that this passage is used by them in support.] The Scripture [1John 1:9]… applies only to Christians. This declaration, as has been seen, is addressed to believers who have sinned and presents the ground on which such may be restored to fellowship with God. [This theme and teaching is prevalent throughout this author’s teachings including several places in this work]" Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Vol. 3

"What does it mean to confess our sins?...You are to say the same thing that God says. When God in His word says that the thing you did is sin, you are to get over on God’s side and look at it. And you are to say, “you are right, Lord, I say the same thing that you say. It is sin”/ that is what it means to confess your sins. That, my friend, is one of the greatest needs in the church. This is God’s way for Christians to deal with sin in his own life. The other day I talked to a man who got into deep trouble. He divorced his wife… I very frankly said to him, “Don’t cry on my shoulder. Go tell God about it. .. Your have lost your fellowship with Him, but you can have your fellowship restored. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins. …Confession restores you to your Father. J.V. McGee – Thru The Bible 1 John

It is important to realize that a popular teaching, a traditional teaching, or a dominant teaching does not make it a right teaching. I have learned a lot from these great teachers, but I think they are all basically missing the wonderful truth of God’s forgiveness here. Please consider the following passages that teach us that we are already forgiven, it has been completed:

John 1:29 29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! NIV Acts 13:38 38 "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. NIV Ephesians 1:6-7 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace NIV Colossians 1:13 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. NIV Colossians 3:13 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. NIV Hebrews 10:17-18 17 Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. NIV

These are just a few passages that reveal our forgiveness through Christ. We have been forgiven. To better understand this, it is also important to understand our position in Christ. Jesus has taken upon Himself our sin, and has given to us His perfect righteousness:

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV

The Bible tells us that there are many things that has happed to us as a result of Salvation, which include: justification, being made complete in Him, being reconciled to Him and being given absolute complete forgiveness for all of our sins. This includes every sin, even those that we have not yet committed. Christ died for them all and has granted forgiveness for them all. This is such a wonderful truth to rest in. Now we can enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that even while we are sinning, grace is abounding even more:

Romans 6:1 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? NIV

Of course God does not promote sin, (see also Galatians 2:17) but when we do sin, His grace is actually increasing and covering our sin because of His forgiveness. Not only is this true, but He is acting constantly as an advocate to God for our sins:

1 John 2:1 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. NIV 1 Timothy 2:5 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, NIV Hebrews 7:23-25 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. NIV

Jesus does not have to literally and verbally beseech the Father on our behalf for every sin we commit, His perfect sinless life and sacrificial death acts as a permanent and constant propitiation for our sin. He has forgiven us, and that forgiveness lasts forever. Because of this wonderful truth, we can know that we will never again be punished for our sin. See, the wages for our sin is death. Jesus paid for that sin debt, in full. We will not stand before God and stand condemned for our sin:

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, NIV

God, who is love, keeps no record of our wrongs:

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs NIV

See, Jesus paid for our sins, and is not keeping track of them. According to the New Testament He does even more than cast them from the east to the west, He took them away forever - all sin, all of them. He is not sitting at the right hand of God just waiting to punish us for our sin, or keeping track of them so we can get in trouble when we face Him in the eternal life. He already took care of them for us on the cross. They are never to be faced again.

This is freedom. When we can allow our heart to accept this truth and rest in the wonderful finished work of Christ, as Hebrews chapter 4 teaches, then we will have peace and freedom from some of the grief that sin causes, including guilt. When we apply these truths to our lives we are free to live our lives for Him in righteous living. The sin of rebellion that we as humans struggle with will begin to dissipate when we realize the extent and depth of God’s love and forgiveness. We are children of a God who has already accepted us, even to the point of dying for us while we were sinning!

Romans 5:6-9 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! NIV

This lifts a tremendous burden from our minds and hearts. We serve a living and forgiving Jesus who loves us and has already taken the punishment for our sin. When we can realize this truth, peace like no person can comprehend transcends upon us and we need not seek any other method to ease the guilt and pain that sin has caused. Jesus told us that His way was light, He will give us rest, He is the answer to our problems, and He will give us grace that is sufficient for any trouble we have.

There is not anything we need to worry about. Nothing more is necessary. We cannot work for His forgiveness; we already have it. We do not need to seek a human agent to grant us forgiveness, because he cannot do it. No human being can grant forgiveness of sin, even on God’s behalf. Only God can do this. We see this fact beautifully illustrated by Christ in Mark 2:2-12. There are no formulas or ritualistic utterances to speak that will cause any more or less forgiveness. And, we cannot grant ourselves forgiveness by confessing sins to God. God forgives us through His son, Jesus.

For the believer, verbally “confessing” our sins through prayer does not cause us to be forgiven. We may ask God to forgive us but He has told us through His word that He already has. We can certainly thank Him for forgiving our sin, but to keep asking for it means we are ignoring Him and His Word. He teaches us to rest in forgiveness, not keep seeking it. As an illustration, if one of my nieces came to me and told me that she broke something in my house and I explained to her that I have forgiven her for her action, then I mean what I have said. If she kept asking me for my forgiveness I would be frustrated because I had already told her that I have forgiven her. There would be no need to continue to ask for something she already had. She should just trust what I had said. While it is difficult sometimes to know if man means what he says, we know that God never lies. When he says he has already forgiven us for all of our sins, we can rest in that promise knowing He means what he says

With this truth in mind, we must ask, what does 1 John 1:9 actually mean? Can we actually break fellowship with God and not be in His good graces if we have un-confessed sin? I remember when I first discovered the truth of this passage. I was listening to a Christian broadcast one evening on the way home from work. I was so intrigued I could not stop listening once I arrived outside my front door. The teacher was Bob George, and he was explaining to a caller that 1 John 1:9 was a one time event. I immediately went upstairs, grabbed my Bible and read the entire chapter and was illuminated by the Spirit as to the meaning of the text. I then began to closely examine the meaning of the text, comparing it with the rest of the Bible. Lets look at the passage:

1 John 1:1 - 2:1 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. NIV

In order to clearly see the conditions in this text, we will examine the six if’s found within it.

6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

7 But If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

I want to emphasize this point because it is importance to see the contrast that John is making. Many contend that John is writing to Christians and therefore this passage applies to us as Christians. While it may be true that John primarily has a Christian audience in mind, he is actually contrasting the believer from the unbeliever.

Note that it says if we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. This is speaking of those who are unbelievers, only professing to be Christian. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. This is speaking of believers who have truly accepted Christ and is walking in the light.

But if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Again, this is speaking of unbelievers, not true Christians. We know from Scripture that we will sin; no true believer will say he is without sin. (There can be no doubt that this passage is referring to unbelievers because John says that the truth is not in those who claim to be without sin. In 2 John 1:2 John says tells the children of God that truth is in them and will be with them forever!) He then says; But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. This is speaking of believers. Those who admit their sin will be saved. Those who already have are already forgiven. There is no teaching here to the contrary. This passage is referring to the one time event that happens to those who are saved. It is not teaching how a Christian should receive forgiveness but rather how those who admitted they had sin became Christians.

We must see the contrast of the believer from the unbeliever. These are not lists of traits or commands for Christians to perform. The context is not teaching us how to get forgiveness, but rather showing us the difference between those who claim to be believers and those who truly are. A believer admits that he is a sinner and has sin in his life. An unbeliever will not fully admit this fact. We could even conclude, from all of Scripture, that the first step in receiving salvation is to acknowledge our sin.

Some of the commentaries that are listed above do a very good job explaining the actual meaning of the word; confess. The Greek word is homologoómen, which means to agree with God. In this text it means to agree with God that we do sin, that we have sin in our lives.

We live in a society now that will not recognize sin. The world and psychology has classified sin as disorders. Calling them sin would mean that they would have to take responsibility for their actions and consequently change their lifestyle and behavior. People would rather believe they are sick. By doing this they are in essence saying to God, “No God, we do not sin!” Another example of this is the sin of homosexuality. Many would claim that they are not sinning and believe they were born that way; that it is somehow genetic. But the Bible teaches that it is a choice and a sin. Here John is saying, those who claim that they have no sin are liars and they do not follow the light but rather are in darkness. But that can be changed. If we confess our sin, that is, agree with God that we are sinners and in need of His saving grace, then He is indeed faithful to His word and will forgive us our sins (which is plural and includes all of them past, present and future) and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is the promise of God to the believer. But if we reject that offer of forgiveness as John goes on to say and claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. Ultimately those who cannot admit this fact will die in their sin and ignorance. John also teaches that if we do sin (and we will) then as believers we already have someone who is at our defense, someone who is constantly covering our sinful life; He is our advocate and His name is Jesus. This happens regardless of whether we verbally confess our sins or not.

Look at the contrast that John uses in regard to light and darkness. Light and dark are at odds with each other. The Bible teaches that if we are in Christ then we are in the light. But if we are not in Christ then we are of the darkness. Consider the following passages:

1 John 1:5 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. NIV John 8:12 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." NIV John 1:4-9 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. NIV John 3:19-21 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." NIV John 12:35-36 35 Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. NIV John 12:46 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. NIV Ephesians 5:8 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light NIV

The Bible teaches that there is a serious contrast between the light and the darkness. Those who are in darkness do not desire to be in the light, and the light (Christ) shines in darkness but darkness does not comprehend it. Jesus made is very clear that those who are followers of him will never walk in darkness. This is repeated throughout the Scripture. Knowing that it is impossible to be in darkness after accepting the light of the world we can further understand that in 1 John 1:6, 8, & 10 John is speaking of those who have never accepted Christ, the true light. They are the ones that cannot confess that they are in sin – therefore they are in darkness. We do not feel that it is impossible to sin, or do things that are “of the dark” but we, as true Christians, are not part of that. We walk in the light, as He is in the light.

These passages addressed the differences between the saved and the unsaved person. However, many teach these passages to mean that while un-confessed sin does not cause us to lose our salvation it does cause us to lose fellowship with God. Think carefully about that concept. From mans perspective, we may not choose to fellowship with God. We may not read, study and meditate upon His Word and therefore not allow Him to speak to us through it. We may choose not speak to God in prayer or live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him. However, we have not “lost” fellowship with God. We have chosen not to do these things, but in doing so, we only hurt ourselves. God gave us the Scripture for our benefit, not His. By willingly forsaking the pleasure of learning about Him we in essence may consider that a loss of fellowship from our perspective, but we really have not lost anything. The open door of communication is always there. Even in the most horrible sinful time of our lives we can approach His throne of grace and find help in time of need (Heb 4). Un-confessed sin will not keep Him from being there when we choose to return. God never declares a “break in fellowship” with us. This concept is not found in Scripture. When we examine every mention of fellowship in the New Testament, none of them speak of our losing fellowship with God, or God breaking fellowship with us because of sin. It is impossible to lose our fellowship with God because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us so that we could become righteous (2 Cor 5:21). When God looks upon us, He sees perfect righteousness because of our position in Christ. Sin is not an issue. God called us into fellowship, and He is faithful not to break that fellowship with us, even when we sin:

1 Corinthians 1:9 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. NIV

Even in 1 John we do not read of any breaking of fellowship, but rather a contrast between those who are in Christ and have fellowship, and those who are do not know Christ and therefore do not have fellowship. This is in unity with the teaching of salvation throughout the Scripture. We are made complete and we can call God our Father. This is the relationship with have with Him and He will never leave us or forsake us.

The Bible tells us that we will still sin, but when we accept Christ as our Savior, we are referred to as saints. He has forgiven all of our sins. There is no need for us to keep dwelling on our sin. He took them away to be remembered no more. This confession idea is out of sync with the truth of Salvation and only keeps our mind on sin rather than on the forgiveness already imputed to us. In fact, forgiveness can only come through the shedding of blood, and Christ has shed his blood once for all.

Heb 9:22b & 28a …without the shedding of blood there is no Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people NIV Heb 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all NIV

Look at Hebrews 10:10 again. It says; “we have been made holy.” Christ’s sacrifice has made us holy. We are not made holy each time we confess our sins, but rather we already “have been made” holy by the blood of Christ when we were saved. This is exactly how we read of forgiveness throughout the entire New Testament. It is spoken of in the past tense, because it has already been done. Just like there are no passages that speak of losing fellowship with God, there are also no passages that tell a Christian how to receive forgiveness. If we were to ask most Biblical teachers for places that teach forgiveness for the Christian, the only passage they will give in defense of this idea is 1 John 1:9 and as we have already discovered this passage is not addressing how a Christian should be forgiven. As we close, keep these passages in mind. Notice how each one speaks of forgiveness as something that has already taken place.

Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins NIV Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. NIV Col 3:13 Forgive as the Lord forgave you. NIV Heb 10:17 "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. NIV 1 John 2:12 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. NIV

Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness and since sins have been forgiven there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Christ’s blood paid the price once and for all. Again, the wages of sin is death; it is not loss of fellowship. Christ paid for the sin debt; the wages have been paid in full. Many people think they can be punished for their sin; instead Christ took the punishment for sin for them. That punishment was death. Because of Him we can live without fear of punishment, or loss of fellowship. We have forgiveness of sins! What shall we do then, when we sin? Instead of asking forgiveness we can pray with thanksgiving. Sometimes I do express to the Lord the sorrow for my sin, but to keep track of my sins in order to ask for further forgiveness is never going to get me more grace nor is it going to restore a fellowship that cannot be lost. I thank for the Lord that He has forgiven me already and seek his strength and guidance to keep from doing so again. I no longer need to keep looking back at my past trying to remember every time I sinned, I can now move forward and keep my focus on Christ and His Word. He is worthy of that time and deserves all the honor and praise.

May the grace of God and His love and forgiveness be upon you. Find rest in the finished work of Jesus.

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